Friday, August 29, 2014

Bull & Great White Sharks

[Edit: This post should have gone up Friday, but for some reason it only saved as a draft instead.  And now since I tried to edit it, the formatting might be weird as well.  Apologies all around.]

Even in our world, bull sharks and great white sharks have an almost mythical reputation.  (Too much of one, thanks to the hash that Shark Week has become.)

That said, they still make good monsters and animal companions in your Pathfinder game.  The Bestiary 4 pulls out the real-world details that make these mundane predators good fantasy monsters: 1) Bull sharks can be found far upriver in fresh water, 2) great whites may just take an experimental chunk out of your character and swim away, but they also have the reach to chomp opponents on land, and 3) both have enough blindsense to be quite effective night predators.

Adventurers take a job running gunpowder to troops on embattled Cairn Island.  Their already hazardous night journey becomes more so when a great white shark begins taking experimental bites out of their boat.  The adventurers must drive off the shark without drawing the attention of the blockade’s bombard crews…and without letting the powder get wet, or the whole trip will have been for naught.

Bull sharks travel up the Vashinon River in autumn, making swimming, bathing, and even laundry hazardous.  When they start attacking in early spring, it is the first sign that the seasons are moving in reverse.

The Flamehair is an unlucky ship.  First reef pixies slice up the mainsail.  Then a kitsune stowaway is discovered, but not before she accidentally knocks the cook’s stash of scurvy-warding limes overboard.  Now sharks trail the ship—at first a school of bull sharks, then a great white or two—attacking the jolly boat and making fishing impossible.  The ill fortune is no accident: The figurehead of the red-haired woman that earned the Flamehair her name has been magically tampered with.

—Pathfinder Adventure Path #57 84–85 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 241

This has been a terrible week on the Internet (because it’s been a terrible week in the world—here’s one example I think we as gamers should all be aware of).  Hopefully this blog has been a spot of brightness.  While we’re at it, you’ve got till midnight (about one more hour) to download last week’s show before it expires.  (It’s good!  I promise!)  And Monday we start on the letter C!

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Bugganes are a blind subterranean race able to tunnel through—or even ignore—stone and metal.  The Bestiary 4 lists them as “distantly related to ogres,” but the illustrator took that description (“tusks,” “mole-like eyes”) and ran with it, depicting bugganes as naked mole rats crossed with the Incredible Hulk.  I think you’re free to go either way (the original Manx legends are unclear on the matter anyway).  If you want a more Tolkien-esque, brutish, subterranean variety of ogre, give your bugganes a more humanoid aspect; if you like a more anthropomorphic monster in the vein of some of Brian Froud or Hellboy’s fey or the Savage Coast’s many humanoids, go with the mole rat.  Either way: BUGGANE SMASH (and bash).

Attempts to carry a treaty to a svirfneblin nation have met with repeated failure.  The deep gnomes trust no one but the rock gnome envoy with whom they originally negotiated…only he was felled by a crossbow bolt two weeks ago, so it’s up to a ragtag band of adventurers.  After several frustrating encounters (including an entire svirfneblin “village” that turned out to be stage props and illusions), the party realizes only the head of the gnomes’ ancestral enemy, one of the tunneling buggane, will secure their aid.

Adventuring in the fey realms, a party realizes they are being maneuvered around a giant chessboard.  They can continue to play the game as pawns…or change the stakes.  Traversing the caverns under the game board means fighting a clan of bugganes.  Claiming the bugganes’ treasure will also be difficult, as the greedy mole-giants use their earth-distorting talents to hide their gold behind solid rock.

Adventurers travel with a Tokari noble through the Undermount Pass, a road that punches through an alpine range.  Every family in the Tokari retinue has at least one ogre slave—a common custom in a land where eldritch pylons power house-magic that keeps slaves in line.  But deep inside the Pass, the slave collars’ connection to the pylons is less certain.  Meanwhile the ogres have started muttering: “The brothers are coming.  The burrowing brothers are coming.”

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 26

B4 also says, “Bugganes pursue and slay those who trespass into their well-marked territories.”  I want to know what those markings look like.  At least players can’t complain their characters weren’t warned…  *wicked grin*

Fans of gnomes, especially those who remember the classic D&D 1e and 2e gnomish deities: Bugganes are perfect as worshippers/servants of Urdlen the Crawler Below.

Also, a land where humans use ogres as slaves?  Another idea shamelessly pilfered from Ghostwalk.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Broken Soul

The broken soul template exists so you can throw good monsters at your PCs with utter abandon.  Period.

There’s simply no doubt about it—particularly since the Bestiary 4 uses a broken soul lillend as its default example.  Had Pathfinder used, say, a brass dragon, perhaps the matter would be still open for debate: “The template says, ‘Any living creature with an intelligence score of 3 or higher.’” “But are outsiders alive in the way we understand the term?” “Hold on, let me check—oh crap.” [Sound of reference books falling.] 

By using a lillend, the Bestiary 4 authors might as well be declaring open season on angels and gold dragons.  “You want your players to fight a ghaele but can't think of an in-game reason?  Here you go: broken soul ghaele.  Broken soul planetar?  Sure, why not?  What?  They stiffed you on pizza again?  I have a deal for you, my friend: broken soul Cernunnos.”

Don't let my metagame analysis distract you from the true horror of broken souls.  Like the antagonist in the Firefly episode “Bushwhacked,” broken souls have experienced so much suffering and horror that they are changed at the most fundamental level.  Serving the pain they have endured and internalized back into the world is the only option they have left to them, and even their stats and horrific abilities reflect this.

Torturers, sadists, and psychopaths of any species might create broken souls.  Certainly demons, devils, and asuras create their fair share, as well as drow and the evilest fey.  (The former add the mutilation of fleshwarping to their already monstrous tortures and the latter use the time-shifting and regenerative natures of their realms to great effect.)  But it is the kytons and other broken souls who create the most new broken souls.  Indeed, for someone in the kytons’ clutches, embracing the anguish and becoming a broken soul may be the only rational response to their many inventive torments…

Just after their latest kingdom-saving victory, some adventurers are approached by an artist who wishes to paint them “in the fullness of their glory.”  But this is no portraitist—the artist is a disguised kyton who specializes in grisly allegorical hellscapes.  When the adventurers arrive at his studio—likely lightly armed and missing most of their gear—they are dumped into a dungeon filled with deathtraps, monsters, and the broken soul victims who came before.

The extended torture and eventual slaying of a hamadryad sends shockwaves through the Great Forest, rendering every one of the wood’s dryads into a broken soul.  A call goes out from the Elf-King for teams of adventurers to lay the poor creatures to rest—a move supported by many of the forest’s elves and fey, but opposed by others.  Care must also be taken in disposing of the broken soul dryad’s bodies, or else they will rise as banshees.

An adventurer is a neglected middle child.  After her younger sister was abducted by bandits, her already distant father lavished attention and advantages on her older sister while spending a fortune to research the fate of the younger, all while ignoring his remaining daughter—a state of affairs that pushed her into an adventuring career quite young.  Now, after years of searching, she has uncovered her younger sister.  The girl was never abducted at all, but sequestered away for years of horrific experiments and torture games at her father’s behest.  Today she is a broken soul antipaladin, almost the polar opposite of her eldest sister (an aristocratic sacred servant in a faraway city).  Only when the adventuring middle sister crosses swords with her mad sibling does she realize the reason for her father’s neglect: If it was all an experiment, she was the control.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 24–25

Funniest line of the broken soul template, coming as it does after abilities like “Agonized Wail,” “Baleful Gaze,” and “Torturous Touch”: “Organization: Solitary.”  Yeah, ya think?!?

I should also mention that the broken soul template originally comes from the Advanced Bestiary, a Green Ronin book I own but have not spent nearly enough time with.  (I got my copy during a massive Green Ronin inventory dump, and all the books in that stack have gone under-read).  Broken soul advanced nymphs make an appearance in Pathfinder #36: Sound of a Thousand Screams.

I saw “Bushwhacked” when it first aired on TV.  Given how fast Firefly came and went, this has always felt like an accomplishment.  I remember thinking, “This show is great, but it is on a Friday night on Fox.  I will never see it and then it will be canceled.”  Behold my powers of Fox-nostication! 

A reader asked (weeks ago—sorry, Anonymous!):

I'm about to start GMing a campaign, and am intrigued by an idea you had in one of the oni prompts. Where should I turn to find more oni besides Bestiary 3?

Hey!  Good question!  The short answer is the Jade Regent Adventure Path (Pathfinder Adventure Path #49–54.)  PAP #49: The Brinewall Legacy has the “Ecology of the Oni” by Mike Shel, and each of the issues has at least one new oni in it. 

If you’re looking for yōkai and Japanese monsters in general, it would also be worth checking out 3.0’s Oriental Adventures and the 3.0/3.5-compatible Rokugan books, especially Creatures of Rokugan.  (I should have bought that at Powell’s in Portland and didn’t, though I did buy and am most of the way through the campaign setting book.)  Browse through the Bestiary 4, too; a few yōkai (like the aoandon) crept in there as well. 

Hope that helps!  Anyone else have any suggestions for Anon?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


James L. Sutter’s Distant Worlds gave us Brethedans, from the Golarion setting’s Jupiter-like analogue Bretheda.  With the publishing of the Bestiary 4 (and the loss of their capital B), brethedans are now ready to float into your campaign.

Dwelling on great gas giants, these jellyfish-like creatures are famous for their adaptability—a brethedan can swap resistances, attack types, and damage dice in only a round—and for their ability to combine, allowing them to share hit points and adaptations.  It is likely this communal pooling of stamina, abilities, and resistances is what allowed brethedans to tame the great space whales, the oma (as well as survive the electricity and acid-laced swallowing process oma travel necessitates).

With all that said, you don't need a campaign about space whales and planetary exploration to find a use for brethedans. The telepaths also could be found on the Plane of Air, and they make outstanding subterranean aberrations for anyone looking to create a more alien underworld.  (See my rant in “Azruverda” for more on that subject.)

Adventurers are exploring a gas giant in their dirigible when brethedans make contact.  Unfortunately, the aberrations at first assume the explorers’ dirigible is sentient as well…and their attempts to cajole a reaction end up piercing the ship’s air envelope.

Every year the Aerochase takes pilots in their ornithops along a new winding course through the canyons and sea caves of Fairview.  On the line are bragging rights, a decent purse, and a rare treasure: permission to buy farmland in the space-squeezed archipelago.  This year’s ’Chase, the most ambitious ever, takes racers past some barely explored islands.  Racers are surprised when strange flying jellyfish manifest and attempt to parley with them midflight.  Any racers who crash amid the crystal caves may find a bizarre underworld where the creatures number in the thousands.

Brethedans sometimes bond with other creatures, particularly the species with whom they share their gas giant homes—but not exclusively.  In Kaarsh, a group of curious brethedan explorers tried bonding with an omox demon.  The connection with the amorphous fiend, while brief, tainted the flotilla (as per the fiendish template), and now the brethedans seem to be unknowingly driven by the Abyss’s whims as well as their own.

Distant Worlds 59 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 23

Over time I’ve become more and more struck by just how big a deal Pathfinder’s early adoption of pulp sci-fi (as far back as the Second Darkness Adventure Path) really was.  For all their grandeur and ambitiousness, Spelljammer and Spelljammer: Shadow of the Spider Moon were simply high and low fantasy (respectively) spread across a universe.  And while there have been plenty of crashed spaceships to explore and even some one-off mini-campaigns (like 2e’s Tale of the Comet, Dragon’s sheens, or Polyhedron’s Iron Lords of Jupiter minigame), they’ve always been limited in scope.  Whereas in the Golarion setting, the stars, planets, alien races, and pulp technology (and even some cybernetic technology) are real, do matter to the setting, and will continue to be so.  That level of commitment to marrying the disparate genres sets Golarion apart pretty significantly.  Kudos to Sutter et al.

Speaking of which, my recent plane flight at least helped me catch up on some Pathfinder books, including the People of the River and People of the Stars Player Companion issues.  I actually liked them for very similar reasons: Both were useful refresher courses on places we’ve been before but haven't visited recently, both had a nice mix of player-focused lore and crunch that was new without totally burying you in feats and options, and both were episodic enough that someone unfamiliar with the Campaign Setting books could still pick and choose feats and archetypes for a home campaign.  As always your mileage may very with Player Companions depending on your campaign’s needs, but I was a fan of both (and was especially thrilled to be back in space again).

Meanwhile, I just got through the second of two big projects that had me working to midnight some nights and through both of the past two weekends.  Things are still up in the air, what with Labor Day travel coming up, but I hope to get to some of the great reader comments and questions that have come my way.  I promise I do read everything you send me, even if my response time isn’t always the best—so keep writing and sending!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Brass Golem

Brass golems are exceptional constructs.  At CR 14, they are more powerful than all but the rarest golems (e.g. those made of adamantine, mithral, or cannons).  And brass golems are likely rare as well, as “elemental fire and extraplanar brass” are required in their construction. 

This means that the creator of a brass golem is likely a force to be reckoned with in his or her own right—someone powerful enough to walk the planes and iron-willed enough to negotiate with azers, elder elementals, or the efreet.  And a patron wealthy enough to commission a brass golem will likely have possessions worth protecting.  (The Bestiary 3 mentions “palaces, treasuries, and harems,” which paints a rather clear picture of said patron.)

With its fiery nature, the brass golem also recalls “basic” D&D’s bronze golem, which had fiery “blood.”  And that in turn brings to mind Talos, the bronze giant that circled Crete three times a day to guard its shores (and its queen Europa).  Instead of bronze, a brass automaton could serve just as well…and again, there’s that disturbing hint of a golem being used to guard a female prize…

Fleeing the wrath of an efreeti malik, adventurers seek sanctuary in the palace of a noble marid.  When the malik’s guards come to claim them anyway, the shahzada expresses shock that word of their presence leaked…but regretfully admits his hands are tied.  As the adventurers languish under house arrest while the genies wrangle over their fates, they may find a clue that the noble marid is not as innocent as he claims.  A room filled with boiling steam hides a rich gift: two glistening new brass golems that could only have come from an efreeti crafter…but that bear the shahzada’s personal crest.

A powerful rakshasa abducts exotic women from across the planes for his harem—among them an axiomite, a weretiger, drow from several worlds, a lillend, and a petrified penanggalen disguised as a bit of decoration  All long for escape (and several long for revenge against their fellows for petty slights and appalling betrayals accrued over the years), but the burns and beatings they have received from the rakshasa’s brass golem harem guard have left them cowed.

The Serene Gynarchy of Meridor sits on an island at the mouth of Tulong Bay, guarded by a watch of brass golems eternally on patrol.  Those women who take the title and the white robes of a magistra may discover—sometimes to their horror—that in addition to protecting the gynarchy’s borders, the golems are also charged to never let a magistra leave the island…but for what reason the Magistra Majora will not say.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 134

3.0/3.5 fans can find another take on the brass golem in the Monster Manual II.

Yes, I post a radio show almost every week.  But once in a while one comes along that’s really special.  The first half of this one has lots of Americana (including Old Crow Medicine Show and Nickel Creek’s new single) and some old favorites; the second half is more synthy (including Sharpless and Wildcat! Wildcat!) and has a few surprises.

If you’re a new reader or you haven't listened in a while, I hope you’ll check this one out, because I’m really proud of it.  Here’s the link.

(Link good till Friday, 8/29, at midnight. If the feed skips, Save As an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes.  And special thanks to readers like mistomaxo who show some love every week!)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Brain Ooze

It’s a brain.  With tentacles.  Whose party trick is dominating you into doing evil acts, then wiping your memory after.  Fun!

While many oozes are a gross but explicable part of the natural ecosystem—essentially slime molds with attitude—brain oozes are clearly the result of something else: a curse gone wrong, experiments by aberrations, creatures from another world…who knows?  Interestingly, “they prize fey, outsiders, and spellcasters as delicacies,” according to the Bestiary 3.  A hunger for spellcasters is a given when it comes to mind-hungry monsters, but a taste for fey and outsiders is intriguing, as these beings usually stand outside the usual food chains.  That brain oozes prize these mystical/metaphysical intelligences supports the theory of some otherworldly (or even otherdimensionally) aberrant or scientific origin for these strange sensation-predators…

A brain ooze takes up residence under the stairs of an inn, having crawled up from the Lands Below via the sump in the ale cellar.  It is thoroughly enjoying gorging itself on so many new vulnerable minds.  Despite its intelligence, though, it does not fully comprehend human society, so while it has been careful never to dominate the same victim twice, it does not realize that a succession of bloody crimes that all point back to the same inn will raise authorities’ suspicions.

A brain ooze preys on sprites in Curvale Forest.  The little fey are up in arms, and they blame the folk of nearby Curvale Parish, whose wizard used to steal sprites to power his faerie lamps.  The wizard is now dead and the parishioners are blameless, but to convince the fey they need adventurers to search his tower and the forest for the real culprit.

A product of a malfunctioning life support system (that was apparently more can opener than hibernation chamber), brain oozes are all that remain of the crew complement of a crashed alien vessel.  Of the flight of five that inhabit the hulk, only one is still committed to returning to its original body and repairing the ship.  The others have become utterly distracted by their new powers, as well as more than a little cruel.  Their only ambition is compelling intelligence-damaged thralls to fight to the death in the ship’s mess.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 43

Back from my 25 hours in Boston!  (Yesterday’s post was written sitting on the floor of Logan.) 

Back when it was a thing, I used to listen to the podcast Webcomics Weekly, and more than once they talked about the magic of 1,000 readers—that when you got to 1,000 readers on the Web things just seemed to snowball.  That may explain why it took me well over two years to reach 1,000 Tumblr followers…and yet you all have boosted that number by 20% in the last 7 weeks alone.  Thanks for joining (and liking and reblogging), guys!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bone Golem

Bone golems resemble undead, but the spirits that animate them are the elemental sparks that power constructs, not the malevolent or trapped souls that animate skeletons and the like.

Typically spellcasters craft bone golems out of convenience—bones are what they happen to have a surplus of on hand, compared to the expensive and bulky stones, rare woods, or sanctified earth that other golems demand.  This also explains their role as tomb guardians—in urban areas there are always paupers going unburied and potter’s fields to rob; in more rural areas (or if the tomb must be kept secret) the workers who built the tomb often wind up providing one last service to their master.

But just because bone golems are constructs of convenience, that doesn't mean their deployment is haphazard.  Spellcasters often pair them with actual undead to confuse would-be robbers and deplete their spells.  Lords fearing betrayal take advantage of the golems’ bone prisons to capture assassins for questioning.  Even some good-aligned churches occasionally employ the monstrosities, using the freely donated bodies of worshippers to create servitors that cage and subdue rather than kill…at least not immediately.

A bone golem haunts the buried halls of Glenmorgan College—the foul construct serving as just one more reminder of the spiritual pollution and decadence that caused the bardic college to be razed.  Its many skulls have each been enchanted to sing one of the Thirteen Songs of Discord.  Recovering these verses would constitute a musical treasure (of an admittedly dubious sort).  Of course, one would have to subdue the golem first.

The bounty hunter Kreb Half-Foot has a bone golem sidekick, and takes full advantage of the construct’s bone prison ability to ensnare his prey.  Supposedly at least some of the golem’s bones belong to a former partner, and the man’s wife will pay handsomely to have her husband’s body returned and Kreb taught a lesson.

A bone golem guards a desert tomb.  But the golem’s “bones” are actually the fossilized cartilage and teeth of innumerable sharks…a clue that this desert was once a very different place.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 133

Being an old-school (Known World) D&D fan, I’m used to a very different bone golem: one with no magical bone prisons, but with four arms for wielding heavy swords, from the Expert Rules and the Rules Cyclopedia.  2e fans can find it as the skeletal golem in the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


As was foretold in the prophecy, my impromptu forced march up to Boston ate up my blogging time.  Sadly—and I am bummed, because I know what Lovecraft freaks you guys are—our first Great Old One will have to wait a day or two. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Allow me to quote the Bestiary 4:

Like some taut pustule ready to burst, this mobile wound scuttles on a bristle of slick hairs.

It’s an animate diseased boil that attacks you!  And upon dying, the boilborn explodes in an acid burst!  If you’re reading this, roll up a character, because I want to attack with one of these right now.

A recent trip to the Furnace left the imp Xytaxis infected with infernal boilborn.  His infestation already killed his master, which may or may not have been a violation of his contract with the sorcerer.  Fearing demotion, Xytaxis is in hiding until he can research the matter; meanwhile he calves more boilborn on a regular basis.

Some risk-taking apprentices have broken into a disused wing of the Halls of the Magi.  The ringleader is after a stash of pickled carbuncles.  (Rumor has it that these make excellent spell components…or narcotics.)  What they find is the reason the wing is disused—a fountain of sewage that defies magical dispelling—and that whatever specimen bottles are still present are all infested with boilborn.

Death in battle is the only honorable end for a hobgoblin.  Those who make it to old age continue to serve the war effort.  After a sack, hobgoblins will often leave a diseased elder to lie among the wounded to leap up and attack those who come to offer healing or bury the dead.  Hobgoblins are prone to blinding sickness, and blindborn sometimes birth themselves from the elders before they even have a chance to take their final revenge.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 22

Like so many grad students with too much time on their hands, I sent in a submission to the contest that would one day yield Eberron.  Plague was a big feature of mine, so I think boilborn are cool, period.

Pro tip: If your campaign take place in the Mwangi Expanse, Southwest flight confirmation numbers make great Bekyar names.  One day I will unleash Mokube the Eater upon the world!

Speaking of which, unexpected travel plans may interrupt posting over the next two days or so.  Bear with me!

Monday, August 18, 2014


The monster under the bed has a name, a dapper look—and a stat block. It is the bogeyman, a creature that feeds on his victims’ terror by shrouding itself in the aura of whatever they fear most. 

As the Bestiary 3 notes, most of these fey concentrate on one victim at a time, but sometimes they terrorize whole cities as serial killers…and sometimes they steal children to carry on their foul legacies.

After a mishap in a treasure vault, a party’s fighter is brought out of the dungeon as a 10-year-old boy.  While the other members work to find a cure for his predicament, the fighter has a new problem.  Decades ago a bogeyman fed on his fear in secret, but was driven off by a cleric after his parents realized something was amiss.  While the fighter may have forgotten this episode, the bogeyman never did…and now that he smells the child-scent of the fighter on the wind again, he intends on finishing what he started.

A bogeyman has taken up residence in the temple of Hammon, hiding in the darkness behind the two-story-high doors of the tabernacle.  No one, from the acolytes to the high priest, can explain why they suddenly fear the chamber, but they do.  As they grow more and more unsettled, the clergy start leaving off their duties.  But the temple exists to guard an even larger set of doors…and if the bogeyman’s occupation keeps interrupting the holy rites, the thing behind those doors may get out…

The bogeyman Bergram Hightower recently ran across a mob of pugwampis.  Delighted by their propensity for causing accidents, he trained them in further mayhem (earning them rogue levels).  Now Bergam’s Boys aid the bogeyman in spreading all kinds of mischief in Donnyfair, and the town is in a panic by day and under curfew at night.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 42

I’m also interested in how bogeymen line up with other fey conceptually.  It seems like minor fey (grigs, pixies) tend to live in and protect nature.  As you move up the scale of power and magic, mid-level fey basically are nature, albeit local in scope (dryads and nymphs especially).  The more powerful a fey is, the more it tends to become a personification of some larger concept, the way certain outsiders and undead are—an entire season, perhaps, or the hunt, or (in bogeymen’s case) “a supernatural manifestations of society's willingness to do itself harm.”

I’ll offer another hypothesis.  Part of being in the natural world is being in the dark—blind, alone, hunted by predators you know are out there but cannot see.  As humans built houses and lit fires, they pushed the dark away.  Bogeymen were originally nature’s way of reminding folk that the dark and the predators were still out there.  Over time the nature part fell away, and bogeymen became forces of fear itself.

(A little dash of bogeyman influence in the gene pool might also explain Pathfinder’s stalker bugbears.)

Also, over the course of this blog we’ve had a bunch of monsters that are specifically female, some of whom reference or represent classic female concerns or anxieties—aoandons most recently, and also banshees, hags, etc.  It’s interesting that bogeymen, as creatures that spread and feed on fear, are all male…

Meanwhile, whoa.  I was not ready for the SRD redesign.  But it’s got Bestiary 4 monsters now, which means you can go back and finally get Bezravis’s stats!

Hey!  I did a radio show!  Crazy, right?  (For the hundred-some new readers who’ve joined us in the last month, radio is a thing I do.)

I tried to make up for my recent truancy by delivering a ton of new music from the likes of Bishop Allen, plus a brief tribute to Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie.  Enjoy!

(Link good till Friday, 8/22, at midnight.  If the feed skips, Save As an mp3 and enjoy from your desktop.)

Also, this video is great.  And true.  Baltimore, man.

The Loft was the first or second DIY show I ever saw, the first time I heard a Pavement song, and by my third time there they had me taking money at the door—which as a nerdy 10th-grader made me feel more included than anything basically ever.  (Speaking of nerdy 10th grade things…)

Wham City gets mentioned a lot here as well, so Dan Deacon fans will want to check this out.  (Sadly, I actually missed a lot of Wham City’s golden era because I was so wrapped up in events put on by the radio station I was DJing for.  I did nearly hit Dan Deacon at a crosswalk, though.)  And if you don’t know Baltimore club…

Friday, August 15, 2014


The bodythief is a plant that steals bodies—you might even say it snatches them—swallowing them whole and then spawning emotionless duplicates of its victims from pods.

The bodythief is physically terrifying—imagine a giant flytrap that can make attacks of opportunity as deftly as a rogue and deflect arrows like a monk—but its intelligence and dedication to “a perfect society” are what set it apart.  The bodythief is not just a throwback to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but to an entire era of classic sci-fi that explored notions of humanity, consciousness, conformity, totalitarianism, etc.  (Think A Wrinkle in Time, which came out only a six years after IotBS.) 

Granted, some of the creators of IotBS say the metaphors read into their movie weren’t intended; they just wanted to make a thriller.  And if you want a purely thrilling “Attack of the Pod People”-style adventure, you’ve got it in spades, with a Str 34 plant as the final Big bad.  But if your group is the kind that wants to debate notions of law and consciousness with an Int 21 carnivorous plant (translated through pod-spawned representatives, as the plant can’t speak for itself but can use telepathy), then all the ingredients are there in the Bestiary 4.

Adventurers encounter a realm ruled by bodythieves, a strict and ordered dictatorship where greenhouses and gardens replace the usual barracks and gaols.  Worse yet, it appears the pod plants had help—not from another planet, but another plane.  Inevitables find the plants’ ordered approach to existence complements their own, and a faction has devoted its resources to helping the bodythieves quell—and replace—agents of disorder…especially  adventurers.

An order of monks and loremaster logicians seek to banish desire and extreme emotions.  This has made the order a perfect cover for an invading bodythief.  Careful observation reveals the pod-spawned are reluctant to do magic and spend an inordinate amount of time tending the gardens on the Autumn Terrace just before Vespers.

After a riot, martial law is imposed, and over time the garrisoned troops take on the cast of an occupying force.  Brought before a tribunal for law breaking, adventures discover the force behind the occupation is a bodythief, and that most of the legal system and key army officers have been replaced by pod-spawned.  The pod-spawned can be overthrown if their plant natures are revealed—an easy task for any druid or ranger—but the party must escape the plant trying to devour them first!

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 20–21

My coworkers!  I didn't get enough notice to participate, but am very proud of them.

Let’s talk about Ethan.  He graduated from my college a little before I arrived.  I don't even remember how we met—possibly we were both on the Death Squad in our school’s version of Assassin?—but he was always way nicer to me than he had any reason to be.

Which is why I totally believe that he is very, very sorry.  (Also, if you want to change the future of the currently ad-supported Internet, read his whole article.)

Can you guys indulge me for a few more paragraphs?  I had a supremely weird/cool week on the Internet last February, but I never posted about it because it was the same week that pothole took out my tire and then snow dumped all over the rest of my life.  I just ran across the notes, and since this week has already been waaay too name-droppy, I thought I’d squeeze them in here to get them out of the way.

1) First off, Reddit is all about the role-playing game Everyone Is John all of the sudden.  [Edit: Again, this was back in February.]  I’ve heard of it, but never really investigated until artisticlicensetokill messages me:

A: Hey, I think the author went to your college.” 
Me: [I follow the link, do a double-take.]  Yeah, he did. 
A: Oh, you’ve you heard of him?
Me: Um…I played Ravenloft with him.”

So if you like indie role-playing, go check out Everyone Is John and the rest of Mike Sullivan’s work.  [Edit: Looks like it's down for now.]  I had no idea he was up to this, but he’s a great guy and knows where the really good dim sum is if you’re ever near San Mateo.

2) I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Clay Risen’s book is blowing up like crazy. If you’re at all into American whiskey and bourbon, check it out, and keep an eye out for his next book (returning to his other specialty, civil rights) due out soon.

[Edit: Months later, people still love Clay’s bourbon book, and his new one, The Bill of the Century, is out now to great reviews.  Clay also participated in that epic bachelor party two weekends ago.  Anyway…]

So it happened that my coworker couldn’t stop talking about this book on American whiskey he was reading.  Finally I pull out my phone.

Coworker: What are you doing?
Me: Just texting the author everything you just said.
Coworker: Why do you have to make everything I love creepy?
Me: It's a gift.

3) Finally this is what happens when I try to take a taxi in College Park to get to my busted car.

Taxi Driver: You live in Baltimore? That's a dangerous place.
Me: Not really. Where are you from?
Taxi Driver: Sudan.
Me: ...The guy from Sudan won't live where I do.
Taxi Driver: Baltimore's rough.

Thus endeth the February notes.  Have a great weekend, everybody!